Students, teachers and volunteers have been busy at work this Spring in getting our school gardens ready for the growing season! Despite the late start to the Spring this year, the warm weather has encouraged the growth of new seedlings, seeds and perennial plants. In April and May, we invited over 22 classes from 5 elementary schools in Regent Park, St. James Town and Cabbagetown to our greenhouse space at Allan Gardens to grow their own vegetable and herb seedlings, participate in curriculum-based gardening activities about pollination, plant parts and vermicompost, and to take a tour of the lush tropical greenhouse.
We are excited about our Urban Trees from Seed program we re-launched this Spring, where we work with Grade 3 students to collect, save and grow native tree seeds from our communities! As part of this program, students learn about the relationship and history indigenous peoples hold with trees as well as tree names in Anishinaabe language from an Indigenous Educator and Tree Whisperer. So far we have worked with 6 different schools across Toronto and have collected seeds and planted Staghorn Sumac, Cedar and Kentucky Coffee Tree. Through this project we intend to increase the tree canopy in Toronto to improve air quality, provide more habitats for pollinators, increase shade, as well as educate students and their communities about Indigenous tree
knowledge and language.
This month students have been getting their hands dirty while planting their seedlings into the ground, exploring and identifying perennial plants growing in the school gardens, such as lemon balm, mint and rhubarb as well as edible weeds, such as white clover, dandelion and plantain! Students have had a chance to flex their culinary muscles in our Cook and Grow after-school program at Nelson Mandela Park Public School and Winchester Junior and Senior Public School, where growing food and cooking fresh, healthy and delicious food are combined into one! We have cooked up dishes from all over the world, including Kimbap Sushi, Chicken Biryani, Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls and Handmade Spinach Ricotta Pasta, with the help of guest chefs from the Toronto community.
We can’t wait for what the summer has to bring and look forward to watching our school food gardens grow. Keep an eye out for organic produce from our school gardens at the Regent Park Good Food Market and Cabbagetown Farmers Market this summer, being sold by our Green Thumbs Urban Roots Youth!